News Story

More Inaccurate Media On Amount Michigan Taxpayers Pay For Schools

Reports do reveal what school establishments want public to think about how much they get

The statewide news site MLive recently reported, “Under a Republican governor and Legislature for most of the decade, K-12 educators have been vocal about their concerns that K-12 funding has lagged inflation. ...” This statement is not supported by data available from the state.

The incorrect statement supports an argument about one element of Michigan’s school funding system, the minimum foundation allowance. That is state money which follows each student to to his or her particular school district or public charter school. But it is not all the state money that public schools get.

If all state dollars (not including local or federal money) are included, Michigan K-12 funding has risen far faster than inflation, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency.

In 2011-12, a total of $11.09 billion in state money was appropriated for K-12 education. It was the first year since 2002 that Republicans controlled the House, Senate and governor’s office, a Republican “trifecta.”

In the 2018-19 school budget, the last approved by Gov. Rick Snyder, the number of state dollars spent on K-12 public education had risen to $13.07 billion. After adjusting for inflation, $13.07 billion represents a $688.9 million increase over the amount approved for the 2011-12 budget. It’s also relevant that statewide enrollment in Michigan public schools declined during these years, even as total state funding was going up.

By basing its analysis on just one of several public school revenue streams — the state foundation allowance - MLive ignored billions of dollars in state funding for other areas of education spending. These include special education, retired teachers’ pensions, extra dollars for districts with more low-income (“at risk”) students and more.

The MLive article then stated: “Including all funding sources, Michigan’s public schools spent $10,002 per student on operations in 2018-19, up 8% from $9,261 per student in 2010-11.”

In addition to not acknowledging that state school funding increased during the time span covered by its analysis, MLive did not report that the amount of federal money received by Michigan schools was stagnant. Federal dollars are another important school funding stream, especially for districts serving primarily low-income populations. They are also outside the control of the Legislature.

Federal aid to K-12 schools in Michigan rose in nominal terms from $1.66 billion in 2011-12 to $1.75 billion in 2018-19. In real, inflation-adjusted terms, that was a decline of about $110 million.

Among other things, that means it was federal funding for Michigan schools that did not keep up with inflation over the last decade, not state funding.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.